Person: Claytor, Schieffelin
Schieffelin Claytor was an American mathematician specialising in topology.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- The unusual name Schieffelin may have been chosen because of William Jay Schieffelin (1866-1955) who was a Republican of the school of Lincoln and strongly advocated the rights and advancement of African-American citizens.
- William Oat Claytor was awarded a D.D.S. in dentistry from Howard University in 1916.
- Claytor joined that programme in 1929, the first year it ran, and took the courses offered on group theory, topology, number theory, real analysis and complex analysis.
- Claytor graduated from Howard University with an M.S. in 1930.
- He advised Claytor to follow the same route and he wrote to the University of Pennsylvania with a strong recommendation that they accept Claytor onto their graduate programme.
- Claytor's work progressed well and he was awarded a Harrison Scholarship which he held during his second year as a graduate student and he also won a Harrison Fellowship holding these for his final two years of graduate study.
- Claytor was awarded a Ph.D. on Wednesday, 21 June 1933 for his thesis Topological Immersion of Peanian Continua in a Spherical Surface.
- With this Claytor became the third African-American to be awarded a Ph.D. in mathematics and the first to have a research paper published.
- This quality of Claytor's thesis has been fully attested by the number of papers which have continued to reference it and the resulting papers.
- For example in 2011 Bruce Richter, Brendan Rooney and Carsten Thomassen proved a generalisation of Claytor's results in their paper On planarity of compact, locally connected, metric spaces.
- Claytor was a young professor himself, and he would walk into the room, put his hand in his pocket, and take some chalk out, and continue yesterday's lesson.
- But Claytor did far more that simply encourage Katherine, he made sure she took all the right courses and when he realised that she would need a background in analytic geometry that the College did not offer, he simply put on a course just for Katherine.
- Many mathematicians were aware of his predicament and, a year before he wrote the above, Claytor had applied for a National Research Council fellowship to enable him to work with Oswald Veblen at the Institute for Advanced Study and with other topologists such as Solomon Lefschetz at Princeton University.
- Others working at Princeton in this area were James Alexander, Deane Montgomery, and Leo Zippin so it would have been an excellent place where Claytor would have flourished.
- seemed well impressed with Claytor ...
- Claytor will find other places.
- Claytor did not get a National Research Council fellowship, Gilbert Bliss having voted against an award being made to him.
- After due discussions, Michigan decided to offer Claytor a position for a year but without a stipend.
- Having some savings, Claytor thought he could survive, with difficulty, for a year without a stipend so accepted Michigan's offer and arranged to have 1936-37 as leave of absence from West Virginia State College.
- Claytor was successful in an application to the Rosenwald Fund and he was informed in April 1937 that he would receive a fellowship of $1500.
- Claytor decided to remain at the University of Michigan and, another application to the Rosenwald Fund provided a fellowship for a further year so he was able to remain at Ann Arbor until the end of the 1938-39 academic year.
- Sadly, worries about his uncertain future meant that Claytor found it difficult to concentrate on his research.
- Wilder did manage to get a non-academic position for Claytor at Michigan which enabled him to remain there until 1941, but he was not able to attend research seminars.
- When the Institute for Advanced Study opened its own building in 1939 they were able to make their own decisions independently of Princeton University and Veblen offered to accept Claytor at the Institute.
- However, Claytor turned down the offer saying that he did not want to be a guinea pig.
- Claytor continued teaching at Howard University where he regularly taught around 20 hours a week leaving him no time for research.
- In 1980 the Association instituted the Claytor Lecture in honour of William Schieffelin Claytor.
Born 4 January 1908, Norfolk, Virginia, USA. Died 14 July 1967, Washington, D.C., USA.
View full biography at MacTutor
Tags relevant for this person:
African American, Origin Usa, Topology
Adapted from other CC BY-SA 4.0 Sources:
- O’Connor, John J; Robertson, Edmund F: MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive